Thursday, April 27, 2006

Yet another outspoken cretin from Deakin University

As Andrew Norton is fond of pointing out, Deakin University has, in the last year or so, been punching well above its weight when it comes to wacky ideas and publicity-whoredom masquerading as academic research and its dissemination. Prime exhibits here are “bamboo slivers under the fingernails” law school head Mirko Bargaric, and law lecturer James McConvill (who is now at LaTrobe Uni). In the latter’s case at least, I think that some slack needs to be cut, because of (i) his age (late 20s), and (ii) his frustration working in a boomer-ocracy (a situation that is hardly unique to Deakin, of course).

Deakin University law school was also my most recent employer (part of 2004, and most of 2005), as it happens. (I regard/ed James McConvill as a colleague, but have never met or otherwise communicated with Mirko Bargaric.)

Deakin’s latest public wacko – Anne-Marie Hede – is not from its law school. This article pins her in the department of sociology, but I’m inclined to instead trust her official homepage, which has her as a marketing’n’management academic. From her photo, I’m guessing she comes from (or close to) the gilded ranks of the 1961-born.

That Anne-Marie Hede is most definitely not herself an Xer can be inferred from this:

The sanctity of Anzac Day needs to be protected from the hedonism of Generation Xers, who demand a good time in return for their participation in the day's services, a researcher has claimed.

"It's generally accepted the Generation Xers have a fairly hedonistic approach to life generally; they will demand a good time for their participation in Anzac Day services, if at all," said Anne-Marie Hede
(penultimate URL)

Yep, it’s those spendthrift, party-loving Xers, who have now come back from the dead, it would seem. By “dead”, I refer to a cohort of Xers, such as Hede imagines them, defying all empirical evidence. Xers are poorer than boomers, and so if any generation is going to get saddled with the communal-punch-bowl-drainers reputation, it should be BBs. Aka: Have you taken a look in the mirror lately, Anne-Marie Hede? Or does your “Xers Exposed!” research merely run to reading "The Protocols of the Youngsters of Glebe". (After all, if such is good enough for Clive Hamilton, Richard Neville and Mark Latham . . . )

Unpicking Hede’s gross generational defamation, it appears that it may even be a case of mistaken identity, with the sole example given of Xers’ Inappropriate Hedonism being Gallipoli in 2005. Hello! Since when are pissed 20-something skanks and stockbrokers, pausing for a BYO (= cheap), but parental-brownie-points-earning bender on their way to settling in London, classed as “GenX”? The way Hede uses GenX as a vessel, into which can seemingly be poured every modern social ill, makes me wonder if she’ll next be blaming Xers for the wanton sacrifice of Aussie lives back in 1915.

A side-thought: given that Macquarie Uni academic Andrew Fraser looks set to be dragged through the HREOC for his (equally) baseless and offensive remarks (about African immigrants, in Fraser’s case), I wonder whether Anne-Marie Hede should get the same treatment? (I’m assuming that “age” attracts the same sanctions here as “race”.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Generational change in academia – it’s going to be boomers to the rescue

There are some rather wonky stats in this article, but whatever the precise figures, it is clear that Australia’s academic workforce is relatively old/“grey”. Rather less clear, IMO (although Richard Nile seems to have few qualms) is that this disproportionately-large boomer chunk (currently aged 44-60) will be retiring in the pattern of the last two decades; i.e. in their late 50s, on average. All the more strangely, Nile even has a bet both ways in this regard – but we’ll return to that.

As I’ve previously said, Australian academia would be better off with a straightforward, mass culling of boomers. Harsh, yes – there are some decent boomer academics. But not many; as Nile’s article notes, almost half of all currently-employed Australian academics were initially recruited between 1970 and 1975. That is, from a time when the main requirement for landing a white-collar job was having a pulse.

So far – and here’s the rub – Nile mightn’t disagree that there’s a lot of dead wood among the still-serving Gough generation. But these pre-1976 appointees are not to be confused with Nile’s own generation, which he terms the “baby busters”.

Geddit? Boomers (aka older boomers) had it all on a platter, admittedly. But those born between 1956 and 1961-ish (like Nile) – or “kids of the ‘70s”, as he terms them – experienced “economic hardship”! Gee, life must have been a bitch for them, for, even as they got their free tertiary educations between the mid-70s and early-80s, they had to deal with rates of unemployment (~5%) that were then considered scandalous, but are now considered full employment. Diddums. Even worse for the poor baby-busters, they had to endure having a “recession” – i.e. a downturn that came, and *went* (!!) – whereas my generation got a less virulent “dose” of recession – viz one that started during our uni days, and has lasted two continuous decades since. (Hell, if it wasn’t for my fortnightly queuing at Centrelink, I’d hardly even notice the unemployment monkey on my back).

So are Nile’s generation and Xers partners in (i) opportunity, or (ii) misery, then? “Tick” to “opportunity” – well, sort of. Nile writes: “The post-1987 cohort now finds itself central to orderly generational succession” (same URL). Apart from a wonkiness in the choice of date-range (juxtaposing “post-1987”-ers against early-1970s-ers implies that there was a decade-plus of nothing-at-all), this assertion just doesn’t ring true for the Xer part of this cohort. Most Xer academics are casuals who would consider themselves lucky to even be that; an assertion that they are going to go from that, to ruling the academic roost, within a few years is ludicrous

Assisting Nile to ignore the GenX realpolitik is a further set of cohort/age-range conflations. In fact, Nile’s “baby busters” even *merge* with GenX, when it suits his argument:

The younger of the baby busters merge with generation X and are in their late 30s and early 40s. These qualify as mid-career academics”. (same URL)

Oh, really? “These” (note that Nile doesn’t use “we/us” here) qualify for the dole, more like it. Nile’s generation-conflation here – divvying Xers up like they were late-30s Poland, for the enrichment (or conscience-salving, at least) of adjacent generations – is the mirror image of what Ryan Heath did in claiming early-70s born Xers for his perky generation of Tony Blair fan-clubbers. As if. And what about the rest of GenX, which both Nile and Heath ignore, albeit at converse ends?

But in the end, in Nile-world, which is to say boomer-world, today’s acute inter-generational injustice in academic jobs can be deflected from over-close scrutiny by simply saying that things will be all right in the long run. Yep, again in echo of Ryan Heath, it is GenY who are going to do a Saving Private Ryan on the ivory tower in due course:

There is no question retiring baby boomers will be replaced by up-and-coming academics from generations X and Y (the youth of the '90s)”. (same URL)

Note, no mention of Nile’s generation here – which seems to ambiguously, conveniently fall in the huge and hugely-illogical gap between the retiring boomers and the “the youth of the '90s” whippersnappers, aka academics of the future.

In the mean time, like now and for the next 20 years, it seems that we Xers will just have to put up with Richard Nile and his cohort re-arranging the deckchairs on the Boom-Tanic.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Geography-schooling American-style at The Age

The locales of Heywood, Port Fairy, Mount Napier and Lake Condah, and the Indigenous Gunditjmara people are in/from Gippsland, apparently. (And The Age can’t even get the date for Anzac day right, either).

In another geographical affront today – though a more forgivable one, because it belongs to a website-only (at this stage), breaking news story – the Cyclone Monica-ravaged town of Maningrida is located 570km south of Darwin. Now Maningrida is admittedly well off the radar of the average Melbournian, but only a basic understanding of (i) cyclones (viz that they lose power as they travel over land) and (ii) Australian geography (viz that there is no open ocean for a whole 2,700 km south of Darwin, is required to appreciate that, wherever Maningrida might in fact be, one place it is not is south of Darwin.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Dead Xer child soldiers – three different ways

In an Anzac-ish theme, I’d like to propose that GenX is perhaps the most war-scarred generation currently alive. Obviously, I am using “war” here in a different sense to your average RSL-member redneck. However, the image of RSL-types nicely segues into my intro to three Xer case studies in war.

I prefer “old-school” Anzac Day. You know, “One Day of the Year” stuff, that characterized the Day from the 1950s to the early 90s. Pissed old blokes, and . . . um, pissed old blokes. Once, I got cornered at a pub (not on Anzac Day) by a pissed old bloke (POB). He was telling me what could loosely be described as a war story. I was pissed, too – but this fact didn’t help the situation; but my sobriety would not have made any real difference, either.

The war story being told was a rambling, shambling monologue, into which I was occasionally expected to insert “gees” and “wows”. Its narrative content completely escaped me (as much as it escaped the actual teller, which is why I made the above point about its being recipient-sobriety neutral), but the cues for me to interject were unmistakable. I wanted to get away, of course, but without the war story having a discernible beginning, middle or end, it was hard to find the right moment to escape. But of course I did get away eventually. And one day, I might be a pissed old bloke, cornering a young’un with an interminable story about being cornered by a pissed old bloke . . .

Seriously (and less Borghes-ian) though, I reckon that a big benefit of old-school Anzac Days was that being cornered by a POB was, at least in theory, less of a predicament, all round. If you went into a pub on 25 April, you were fair game for a war story or two, and if they lasted all day and night, then you were there for the duration. Conversely, on the other 364 days of the year, POBs, whether bearing war stories or not, could be avoided without too much guilt.

Anyway, that was then, this is now. We all know that new-school, child’n’female friendly Anzac Day has sent the monologues of – and the audiences for – pissed old blokes, somewhere else. Which is nowhere, in fact AFAICT. About ten years ago, then, things just changed overnight in this respect.

And there’s the GenX rub – the disconcerting feeling of things disappearing, usually for no good reason – from a GenX POV, at least. My ruminations on old-school vs new-school Anzac Day are just one small illustration of this phenomenon. Into my early adulthood, Anzac Day seemed to be working just fine. I admit that the veteran ranks were thinning, but if this meant that Anzac Day was going to be extinct by c. 2025, then so be it.

Instead, as we all know, Anzac Day got an unannounced (AFAICT) extreme makeover –hurrying POBs to their graves, I imagine, or if not, certainly pretending that they weren’t there, nor that fifty years of old-school Anzac Day had even ever existed.

And what for? What for?

So that “we” can live in an affluent Australia, where Anzac Day needs to be renovated at least as regularly as one’s kitchen? Tick. Of course, “we” can still concede that such renovations might “negatively impact on” (the ever-dwindling ranks of) old veterans, but otherwise it’s all good, isn’t it?

Only if you take GenX out of the equation, which of course is a thing done without saying, all the time.

My point about being personally “impacted” by the Anzac Day makeover in the 90s may seem trite. And it is – believe me, I’m got many, larger issues, and my loss here doesn’t compare to that of actual veterans.

But I’m just so sick of being caught on the wrong side of history and “progress”, all the time. When I started university in 1984, I thought of it as insurance – by paying my dues upfront, I would avoid the worst that the economy might throw at me (such as unemployment) later in life. In this, I was comprehensively mistaken (or mislead), as it turns out. Instead of university being insurance, someone declared it to be (while I was still there) an “investment”.

What for? Who for? Not me, nor for my generation, that’s for sure. And reasonant of the (slightly later) Anzac Day makeover, the late-80s-commenced (but continuing and so apparently endless) renovation of tertiary education in Australia was soft-sold as an access/accessability package. #%&! When the actual stakeholders – current students in the case of the Dawkins de-forms, and war vets in the case of Anzac Day – have precisely zero say in the makeover, something is badly awry.

Badly, but oh so silently awry. Hence, my three GenX war stories, each a type of murder, and each, while on the public record, not nearly well-enough known and understood.

These are three of my generations’s early tipping points, but that’s “tipping” Xer style; that is to say, manqué. On each occasion, the world should have sat up, taken notice, and turned its very axis around in response. However, almost nothing materially has changed, in any such response to date. Only the first death was perhaps not completely in vain.

Hector Pieterson – 1964 to 16 June 1976

Hundreds of children (from primary school, and junior and senior high) were killed in Soweto by white South African forces that day, but I’m singling Hector out because (i) he was almost the first killed on the day, (ii) he was one of the youngest (AFAICT), and (iii) three photographs featuring Hector’s fresh corpse make the tragedy more media-indelible.

I can’t understand why the West didn’t see fit to invade/bomb/nuke/whatever South Africa’s white bastions (preferably police/military, but in the context, civilian targets would seem justified, also) in immediate retaliation for this atrocity. Was it because many of the dead children were Xers – and Xer lives were, from birth it now seems, “invested” with a sort of discount compared to the value of earlier (and later) generation’s lives? Or was it because Vietnam had already “done” childhood snuff footage, as far as blasé boomers were concerned? Whatever the reason, the West seems to have thought that in Vietnam, it “prepaid” military retaliation against any other, later regimes which might pop-up to commit atrocities against children (at least until the 1990s, when Xers were no longer children).

Motif: boomers have prepaid insurance, bought for a relative song in their youth, but that will be “good” to last them for the rest of their lives. Xers carry the insurance risk of such contracts – to this day, and this is a burden we have borne since being children in the 1970s.

Oddity: Only one of the three photographs of the dead Hector seems to be widely known; it’s often called the “famous photograph”. This one is an odd choice IMO; especially compared to the other two, it seems quite comic – an effect added to by Hector not being obviously dead in the photo. The same trio shown in the “famous photograph” are shown quite differently in this photograph. The crowd in the shot’s background is an obvious difference, but more importantly, the foregrounded three scream with pain, burden and silence (respectively). The third photograph is similarly powerful, but its screams are tempered by a beauty that reminds me of the Palestrina Pieta: Hector’s body is at once unbearably heavy and almost floating in Mbuyisa Makhubu’s arms.

Strong stuff – the almost-unknown latter-two Hector Pieterson photographs, anyway.

Hossein Fahmideh – 1967 to 1980

The first suicide bomber was also a child and an Xer. Unlike re the hundreds of children killed in one incident in Soweto, the West does/did have several reasonable excuses for not interfering in the 1980s Iran/Iraq war – which was to involve the murder of hundreds of thousands of children, mostly as front-line cannon-fodder for the Iranian side. This war was protracted, messy, and most of all, not in the West’s bailiwick – oil supply aside.

Oh, and suicide bombing aside, too. Could September 11 have been nipped in the bud? Yes, and although it wouldn’t have been easy, the best place for such a hypothetical intervention in history would have been straight after the murder (there is no other word to describe a 13 y.o. “suicide bomber”) of Hossein Fahmideh.

Motif: a stich in time doesn’t save nine, when the nine are Xers. Boomers long ago decided that the best “cure” for cancer is for everyone to get it, slowly and steadily.

David Reimer – 22 August 1965 to 5 May 2004

Unlike a recent doco on David’s life suggested, I don’t think that David’s fairly recent suicide (or indirect murder, if you prefer) was a turning point, after which the psychologist who had tried to reverse David’s gender should be looked at in a new and colder light.

Rather, David had long lived on borrowed time – ever since 1978, when he refused any further physical or psychological interventions from/via Dr John Money.

Unbelievably, the “Dr Money and the boy with no penis” doco missed the core of David’s grievance: that throughout David’s teenage and early adult years, Money had continued to trumpet David’s case as a medical success. This was clear-cut scientific fraud and something unrelated to the issue of whether Money (i) was following scientific best-practice in David’s early years (he probably was), and (ii) was right to first publish David’s case as a success in 1972 (again, he probably was, but the experiment’s “success” started to unravel almost immediately after that).

Motif: When an Xer child is the experimental guinea-pig, scientific fraud (which inter alia goads that Xer to highly-predictable suicide in later life) is justifiable, if the alternative would mean a loss of prestige or money on the part of the researcher. In other words, the 13 y.o. David should have known who and what he was f*cking with, when he decided to refuse further treatment in 1978.


Three children born in the mid-60s, who each died through acts of boomer (or older) calculated atrocity. As far as I’m aware, none of the perpetrators, who would mainly still be alive (certainly so in Dr John Money’s case) has been brought to any kind of justice. But hey, that's the power of boomer "insurance" in action. Which translates to infinite risk-shifting - aka war - onto and on my generation.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Nine Inches Over – to Xercentricity

God, I love the TV show “Six Feet Under”. Weirdly, it is broadcast on the Nine Network, which seems to otherwise broadcast exclusively to the over-60s and/or otherwise brain-dead. (I watch quite a bit of commercial (and non-c) TV, but “Six Feet Under” and news/current-affairs aside, Nine is a don’t-go-there black hole on my remote).

As SFU fans would know, the show is a rare treat in its Xercentricity. Most TV dramas, from the good (“The OC” and “The Simpsons”) to the awful (“Home and Away” and “Neighbours”), are not merely not Xercentric – they have no Xer-aged main characters at all. Which could be spooky, ‘cept when one thinks about demographics and ad revenues – and on the assumption that a show mainly about Xer characters strongly attracts an Xer audience – viewers like me don’t buy no-o-othing. (Here, I couldn’t help notice that a prominent buyer of SFU’s ad space the other night was the federal government’s dubious, GenY-targeted anti-domestic violence campaign from a couple of years ago, now seemingly born-again for the financial edification of James Packer).

At least semi-Xercentric is “Desperate Housewives”, a show of many camp (= improbable) conceits, of which the biggest one is the absence of any inter-generational fault-line between those born in, before and after 1962. In lieu of any such fault-line, “Desperate Housewives” upgrades its early-Xer characters to the pointy-end, aka the lifestyles and sensibilities of tail-end boomers. At the same time, it falls back on the hoariest old staple of inter-generational drama on TV: parents vs (always) smart-arse children/adolescents. Yawn. But I still watch it, coz I love Bree (played by Marcia Cross, born March 1962). Surely, pretty, pretty please, one of these days she’s going to lose it totally, aka reveal her inner Xer/fuck-up? (*Playing at* being a 1950s housewife, which is what Bree does so well, is of course an Xer attribute, but it’s not enough for me.)

SFU is at the other extreme of glossing over the boomer/Xer inter-generational fault-line; there’s not a single lead boomer character in it. Nor any of boomers’ constant companions in TV cliché (smart-arsey kids/adolescents), to boot. Yay!

Instead, we get adult-vs-adult (30s and early 40s, vs mid-60s) inter-generational drama, as hugely aided by most characters being total fuck-ups. Not unlikable, mind. And certainly not unbelievable – Nate, Brenda, and David represent between them almost the full gamut of white, middle-class Xer wretchedness, in my opinion and lived experience. The emotionally frigid (and/or psychotically narcissist, in Brenda’s mum’s case) mother rings true, also. Only youngest sibling Claire and her boyfriend (and Brenda’s brother) Billy resist generational pigeon-holing. Claire’s character is 21, but both the actor playing her (Lauren Ambrose, born February 1978) and her scripted sensibilities seem remote from those of a perky GenYer. Equally anomalous is Billy, played by Jeremy Sisto (born October 1974). While undoubtedly fucked-up enough be to a card-carrying Xer, Billy has the sort of improbable career success that could only be explained by a boomer-style, mutual back-scratching network. Or if not, and even more un-Xerly, Billy must have had a *mentor*. Yech!

There is one regular, boomer guest character on SFU, though: movie industry Roger. Appropriately enough, he’s deeply and unredeemably vile – rich, emotionally-together, amoral, sleazy and always imposing himself on, and insinuating himself into, the lives of hapless Xers, David and boyfriend Keith in particular.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A nation of (male) slackers/“drop-outs”?

Tim Colebatch has twice* written in recent years, on the admittedly stark, and so highly newsworthy stats on non-labour force participation (which is more than just unemployment) among Australian men aged 25 to 44, aka men in the prime of their working life.

In a nutshell, the stats show depressingly high ex-unemployment NILF rates among this cohort (9% currently compared to 4% in 1978) (same URL). In contrast, the actual unemployment rate (which includes only (i) those actively looking for work, but who (ii) have not even done a single hour of work recently) are comparatively stable: 3% in both 1978 and 2006. (Measured against the broader unemployment (only) rate then, men aged 25 to 44 appear to be doing quite well).

A few observations can be made on the phenomenon that Tim observes.

First, and most surprising to me, is the apparent ease with which so many Xer men have been able to get, and stay, on the DSP. While DSP recipient- and NILF-rates are far from coterminous (only about 40%, or 114,000, of the 250,000 25 to 44-aged male NILFs are on the DSP) (same URL), that still leaves an awful lot of young(ish) men medically unable to work. I assume that the majority of these do not have conventional physical disabilities, yet AFAICT to get on the DSP by having a mental disability is “camel through the eye of a needle” stuff. For example, depression, however severe, appears to never per se warrant one being accepted as medically unable to work. OTOH, an episode of hospitalization for mental illness and/or drug psychosis seems to “count” disproportionately towards DSP eligibility. If nothing else, then, a fair number of Xers have been stunningly successful at playing the “squeaky wheel” game of bluff for access-to-scarce-resources, although probably more by circumstance than by intent.

Second is the point about actual generational coincidence. The 25 to 44 cohort in 2006 clearly subsumes the entirety of GenX, but it also importantly overlaps at either end. At the older end, it may sound pedantic of me insisting that the oldest Xer is currently 44-and-a-bit (and such a person should absolutely not be grouped with 44 year-olds generally), but such a difference is dramatically present in stats on DSP recipient rates among the 1961-born vs the 1962-born. At the younger end, although this time the generational borderline is much less precise, there is undoubtedly some encroachment by GenY into the 25 to 44 cohort in 2006. As an ersatz way of proving this, I suggest that the recent small improvement in the cohort’s labour-force participation rate (88% currently (penultimate URL) vs 86% in 2003), can be attributed to the statistically-ameliorating influence of mid-20s go-getters and self-described “team-players” (a term few if any Xers would use sincere-boastfully) like Ryan Heath.

Finally, although Tim Colebatch is careful not to draw any explicit link, the “drop-out” headline alone verges on culpable generational defamation. Funnily enough, the early 90s “slacker” was sufficiently yuppie/materialist to pre-empt being generally considered a cognate of the “drop-out” or the “dole bludger”. (The latter is a term that Tim obviously can’t use, because actual unemployment rates for the 25 to 44 cohort remain relatively (albeit puzzlingly so, IMO) low.) But ours is an age of masterly dog-whistling, and so it’s pretty clear what “drop-out” is intended to connote, for boomer ears, anyway.

In case you don’t get it, I’ll spell it out. The generation who invented the “dole bludger” (aka a person who lived in a “shack up the coast” in the 1970s) carry an odd sense of welfare entitlement. Observed in others (well GenX, anyway), welfare-reliance is generally bad, despite such reliance being entirely a result of the boomer-led new world order, aka economic fundamentalism. OTOH, particularly for themselves, boomers (although having never, of course, much *needed* welfare personally to date), see it as the icing on an already-abundant cake.

Put another way, money to surf and live (and buy a house in) in Byron Bay in the 70s is/was a legitimate entitlement, but money with which to slide into frugal middle-age in 2006 is too much cake (or even bread), and not enough icing, dah-ling. And hence the resolution of the paradox (at first glance) of DSP largesse for the much-maltreated cohort of GenX men: the DSP’s all icing (coz the "cake" underneath is necessarily fucked), too.

Welcome to the nuthouse of 2006, where “inside” it’s always Byron in the 1970s. Whether that means inside your head or inside your wallet, only you can tell.

* See also “[GenX men] the losers in fulltime jobs growth

Friday, April 14, 2006

Forever young, I want to be forever young

Long ago, before the song “Forever Young” was covered by Australian boy-band (= manufactured by a Svengali, from the looks of them) Youth Group and then given instant oomph by getting on the “OC” soundtrack*, the song was filed away in the archived recesses of my mind as something sounding like it came from a Fleetwood Mac side-project circa 1976 – and from a particularly messy cocaine-and-Quaaludes bender, at that.

In other words, there was something creepily, well, boomer, about it – and not just coz the lyrics are internally contradictory (“Are you going to drop the bomb or not?/Let us die young or let us live forever”).

The first half of the “or”sentence, minus the nuke-paranoia that was acute in the 80s and 50s (but not seemingly much in between), is more famously, previously, and this time unambiguously, encapsulated in the lyrics of The Who’s boomer anthem “My Generation” (“I hope I die before I get old”).

In 2006, it is safe to say that boomers have generally *not* taken The Who up on their generation’s version of the Napisan challenge – viz life as a fast’n’furious Bacchanalia, and then a long, long whiteness. Ah, well. In fact, I think that the actual turning point, for decisively rejecting this challenge, was way back in 1979 – the year that fundamentalism first took off in the West (economic) and mid-East (religious), and in which The Who should have retired.

By the latter, I’m referring to the December 1979 pre-show stampede for seats in Cincinnati, during which eleven people were killed. (My hunch, although I’ve been unable to confirm it, is that most or all of the deaths were of Xers – i.e. kids 17 or younger – in a predominately boomer (18 or older) crowd

Famously, the Cincinnati show went on (something that was hardly their fault, as The Who were deliberately not told of the stampede/deaths until after the show) (Scroll to Dec 1979). But definitely The Who’s fault was continuing with the US tour (same URL) so allowing creepy American boomers to reminisce, many years later, about being at Who live concerts a week or two after the Cincinnati stampede.

Sorry guys from The Who, but if the May 1979 election of Thatcher wasn’t enough reason for you to go less cock-rock, more Molotov cocktail, then boomers stampeding to kill Xers (before they “get old”, or at least get better seats than them) should have been the last straw. Aka, from the career choice contained within the lyrics of “Forever Young”, The Who should have taken the *first*, not the second option – that is, to retire (“die”) young (or not so young, in fact), rather than play/“live” forever.

Strictly speaking, The Who’s taking such a cue from the lyrics of “Forever Young” is an anachronism, as any music geek worth his/her salt would no doubt have been long since frothing at the mouth to tell me. The song, far from dating from a coke-n’luude haze c. 1976, was released in late 1983, and moreover is by a definitely 80s (although still boomer, AFAICT) band, Alphaville. Sadly for music geeks, however, my first mention of Alphaville is also my almost-last one. (I’ll sign out on them by noting (i) they also did the (in contrast to FY) stereotypically-80s-electro “Big in Japan”, and (ii) their de rigueur, big-haired group mugshot can be found on the Afternoons in Utopia (1985) album cover.)

What I’ve been building up to so far is the issue of boomer immortality. Seriously. Not (just) as in old rockers seemingly never hanging up their leather pants, but as in not even actually dying sometime (Never has a single song lyric containing the word “or” been so prophetic):

"As an official member of the boomer generation, I do not believe it was intended for us to die," [Dr Terry Grossman said]. "We were special right from the get go. Dying wasn't part of our script."

The prospect of boomers living forever leads to all sorts of consequences; all negative, from where I sit. But, despite my music-centred lead-up, above, the same rock dinosaurs dominating stadii billboards for millennia to come is not prominent among them; nor the connected, inevitable distortions in the leather-pants futures market. Rather I’m mainly concerned with a bunch of people who will mostly (I’m assuming) want to live “out” their years of immortality as affluent retirees (for want of a better description). Translation: they’ll have the money, and you and I have got the servant’s uniform.

Boomers reading this may well be thinking: “What’s with the boomer immortality thing? While boomers may be the first generation to be in time for such a leap of medicine, no one’s saying that subsequent generations won’t also be able to equally partake of this gift of science”.

Yeah, right. Immortality just doesn’t work like that. It would make generations clearly hierarchical – oldest first, of course. Personally, I would not be interested in immortality for several reasons (I’m assuming that it wouldn’t be compulsory), but looming large here is that it’s simply not fair to later generations. And note that this is coming from an Xer, who would stand on the “silver” dais of generational hierarchy in immortality, tantalizingly close to the boomers’ “gold”. (Translation: it wouldn’t be me, in any event, futilely trying to scrub thousand-year-old skidmarks from even-older boomer undies).

Music trivia side-bar

Bob Dylan, a boomer icon who’s always bored me witless, also has recorded a song titled “Forever Young”, in 1974. While I wouldn’t have expected Dylan necessarily to wax lyrical about dying young – although this would have been polite of him, along with a built-into-the-lyrics definite date by which he would irrevocably at least SHUT THE FUCK UP – the sheer bathos of his lyrics still rattles my head like a last Quaalude rolling pregnantly around in the bottle in someone's hand in an eternally-1976 recording session in Denver. Read them, boomers, and I guarantee you’ll think twice about wanting immortality:

May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,

May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,

May you stay forever young (etc)

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,

May you stay forever young (etc)

Dylan’s song was so bad, in fact, that it was promptly covered (also in 1974) by country music queen Kitty Wells. The New York Post of 4 September 2001 calls her Dylan cover a “real [career] risk” for Wells, even in hindsight. Also in hindsight, a turning point of sorts seems to have been reached in New York that week, on the epistemology and logistics of staying forever young.

* Bonus Easter-egg for music geeks! Alphaville’s original “Forever Young” is on the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack – but I guess you already knew that.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Is “Australia” being excised from Australia?

Well, that’s the only logical handle I can put on the news in today’s Oz.

Note the three (!) warning bells in this one short sentence:

“Cabinet is believed to have gone for the idea because it is simple, will work effectively in the Papuan case and does not contravene Australia's international treaty obligations.” (same URL).

I guess that excising Australia from Australia is “simple” to the extent that it doesn’t involve (yet) the detailed time-tabling of cattle-trains, et al (aka Excel spreadsheets are a bitch). But the other two are a bona fide paired doozy: the new measures are (unofficially) narrowly targeted – so as to “work effectively in the Papuan case” – *and* do not contravene Australia's international treaty obligations. Who would have thought that Australia's international obligations were quite as elastic as this? Criminal fuckers who have trashed “brand Australia” and who seem to be getting off scot-free, that’s who.

In a related observation, I can’t help but notice PM Howard’s impeccable timing in dropping this bombshell so as to land on this very morn, so displacing a fair few inches of newsprint that might have otherwise gone on previewing his Cole inquiry appearance. But it gets better: Good Friday-eve is only matched by Christmas Eve as a day for burying bad news. In fact, it may even be better: Good Friday-eve is the busiest day of the year in the nation’s airports. Which means lots of sound-bites are going to be heard this evening by bleary people, only too eager to turn off their brains at the first available opportunity.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

“Outsiders” and the inside-running in the global labour marketplace

Chapter 1 of Mark Davis’ 1997 book Gangland is titled “ . . . insiders, outsiders and the new generationalism”. Unqueried in the chapter is that “insiders” are in utter pole position compared to outsiders in Australian workplaces.

This was certainly true at the time, and still seems to be the case now – re the industries that concern mainly Davis, viz academia/the media/the arts, anyway.

With blue-collar jobs in the West currently, however, it appears that insider/outsider orthodoxies have been severely shaken, if not actually reversed. And this time (for once), I’m not referring to a generational phenomenon, but to ethnic/national identity.

Exhibit one: the Hispanic illegal-immigrant amnesty debate in the US

Both the US President and one such illegal immigrant (I’m assuming; in the transcript s/he’s just “Protester #1”) say that the Hispanics are working in jobs that Americans won't do. While the sheer unlikelihood of such a conjunction of views doesn’t automatically disqualify it from being true, the US unemployment rate of ~5% does, IMO. Full employment is a natural and essential precondition of “Americans” picking and choosing jobs in such a way, and while opinions differ over what level of unemployment can be considered practical full employment, I suggest that it could not be higher than 2% (which is likely to roughly correspond to a figure of two unemployed applicants for each vacant job).

So what’s going on here? Plainly, there is a breach in the labour market that “Americans” aren’t filling, and Hispanics are. Apart from for the minority of jobs that I imagine many people wouldn’t do, period (e.g. working in the killing-room of an abbatoir), the most obvious explanation is ultra-low wages for some. This is, despite the USA’s bare-bones social security system, the wages offered in “Hispanic” jobs are so low that the continuing unemployment is preferable, or at least comparable.

Such ultra-low wages almost certainly would be below the USA’s (again, very modest) minimum wage floor. Here then we have the first problem with the “jobs that Americans won't do” case – it rests on illegality, and all that goes with that, with the additional element here of a compound illegality from the very beginning (because of the worker’s migration status).

An immigration amnesty (or para-amnesty, like Bush’s proposed guest-worker program) will obviously fix this latter, least-problematic type of illegality, but it will necessarily condone, and so increase, the former type. Alone, this worries me, but there are connected issues to consider, together capable of sending the worry-barometer down exponentially, in any event.

Exhibit two: booming, global London

“But the difficult intersection of race and class in east London is a story that has not been fully worked out. London still often provides more opportunities for outsiders than insiders, with a booming economy but 660,000 inactive or unemployed.”

Why? More so in the UK (and Australia) than the US, social security payments – almost always available to “insiders”, and often NOT to “outsiders” – go some way to explaining this apparently upside-down state of insider-vs-outsiderdom. I believe that there are other important, if fuzzy, factors at play, though.

The sharpest of these factors, in explaining why outsiders (NOTE: *not* immigrants; e.g. ethnic-Anglo NZ immigrants to Australia are in no sense “outsiders”) have a competitive advantage in the (blue-collar) job market, is what I term the Script of capitalism. Outsiders have to strive, and capitalism needs strivers – and needs them more than it usually acknowledges. To illustrate what I mean by this, consider:

“[Peter] Drucker said that Taylor [deviser of the scientific, micro-measured workplace, c. 1900] . . . ‘sparked the revolution that allowed industrial workers to earn middle-class wages and achieve middle-class status despite their lack of skill and education’”.*

Now leaving aside the dubious truth of the assertions therein contained, the above statement nicely encapsulates my point that capitalism needs strivers. Here, I *don’t* mean that capitalism needs aspirationals (= complacent worker/consumer drones); though they’re nice for it. Nor do I quite mean that capitalism needs desparate, exploitable labour fodder – although again, such a workforce hardly hurts the cause. Rather, capitalism absolutely needs (“needs” like a vampire needs blood) a workforce who can serve as its own attractive mirror-image. Hence, the otherwise perversity of Taylorism being invoked as a leg-up for a (here, unspoken) sliver of the working-class. Such a sliver, I should stress, are not, and never will be, boss/management material themselves, but nonetheless have a curious, complete overlap of their own economic/ideological interests with those of their capitalist employers (similar to Dubya and the Hispanic immigrant, above).

With unions now busted wide-open in Australia (a few blue-collar trades aside), blue-collar “outsiders” who walk and talk the boss’s agenda are going to be ever more on the rise. This is a shame, including for such outsiders themselves, as immigration policy and its racialising appear to be the *proxy* (as I’ve said, outsiderdom and immigrantdom are not the same thing) battle-field between outsiders/capitalists and the rest.

And racialised battles are never neat, fair, or short. I fully concur with these sentiments of John Martin (from the Federation for American Immigration Reform):

Yes, the President definitely has it wrong in that he is listening to business interests that see the large-scale availability of low-wage workers as a benefit. It allows them to increase their profits and allows them, to a certain extent, to discriminate in terms of who they hire.

Except for one thing – pro-outsider discrimination (or “reverse discrimination”, as it was called in the 80s) is not going to be stopped by immigration “reforms” – major or minor. Rather, capitalism – at least of the virulent sort the West has had since c. 1979 – simply has to go. Fortunately for this cause, virulent capitalism does have an Achilles’ heel – it needs outsiders far more than they need it.

* “Thinking for a living” The Economist 21 January 2006

Monday, April 10, 2006

Should politicians and “political” public servants be personally liable for their mistakes?

Two quotes from the weekend’s papers, re the failures of privatisation in Victoria/Melbourne:


Privatising the system would reduce the subsidy, provide better services and new trains . . . Mr Z said [c. 1992-93]. It was a "win, win, win" for Victoria. He predicted the changes would be the envy of the world . . .

Mr Z recently expressed dismay at the outcome: "We now pay billions in subsidies to the private operators, which was not the idea of privatisation," he said . . .

Mr Z told The Sunday Age privatisation had turned out "different from what we intended . . . "


“[H]is experience of the involvement of private-sector lawyers in drafting legislation . . . was almost always ‘woefully unhappy’. “There was a series of catastrophes and as a result the policy of engaging lawyers in the drafting process was wound back,’ he says.


Well, derr. I’ve always believed – and said – that privatisation in Australia was simply a slightly more orderly, polite version of the mass pillage that occurred in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the early-mid 90s

But rather than feeling vindicated by the above quotes, I’m livid. The thing is that the two speakers – respectively, former Premier Jeff Kennett* and former Crown Counsel under Kennett, Greg Craven** – were ultimately responsible for both these privatisation failures.

Of the two, I have some misgivings about putting Greg Craven in the same league of responsibility as Jeff Kennett. The former’s appointment as “Crown Counsel” was emphatically both a “political” and senior role, but I really have no way of knowing its autonomy, i.e. where the failure “buck” should be deemed to stop precisely. But as Greg Craven’s (i) a not-very-good former lecturer of mine and (ii) a boomer who AFAICT has had his whole career served to him on a platter, I think I’ll go for a maximalist version of Greg Craven’s responsibility. The other thing that needs noting here is that the privatisation of legislative drafting was eventually ‘wound back’, presumably while Craven was still Crown Counsel.

The failed privatisation of Melbourne’s public transport will cost Victorian taxpayers $2.1bn over the next four years (URL below). Despite this, there does not seem to be the political will to reverse it. I believe that both this financial failure, and the difficulty of its reverse/remedy were eminently foreseeable, and that Jeff Kennett should be held personally liable for these billions of losses.

The failed privatisation of legislative drafting has not cost billions, but it was also eminently foreseeable by Greg Craven. Subject to my above reservations about his autonomy and his late-in-the-day mitigation, Craven should be personally liable for the millions (I’m guessing) his stupid ideological frolic cost taxpayers.

* William Birnbauer “Privatised trains, trams on the wrong track” Age 9 April 2006

** Marcus Priest “News laws do create jobs – for lawyers” AFR 8 April 2006

Saturday, April 08, 2006

"It should be dealt with quickly"

Just a quick post today, before I scoot off to this. PM Howard’s offering my state/city some unsolicited advice, on getting rid of an Indigenous tent encampment/“embassy” set up a few weeks ago.

"It should be dealt with quickly. If it's left — and the Canberra experience is instructive — it stays".

Quite. Why the Australian public didn’t use the 1998 election to get rid of this bunch of fucktards is beyond me (even factoring in Labor being just as bad). If anyone understands the power of incumbency and adverse possession, it’s Howard.

Presumably, he’s advocating guns’n’dogs, if necessary, to close down the “embassy”. On present indications, the same – at least – is going to be necessary to close down the Howard occupation of my country. Hope he’s ready for such measures, aka a bit of his own medicine, then.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Why do people keep serving Naomi Campbell?

That’s “serving” as in “working for”: as cleaner, personal assistant, etc.

Yep, I acknowledge that this story – which contains the above question – is filed under “celebrity”, and so my taking it too seriously is like crossing some sort of species barrier.

But hello, Lenny Ann Low – lots and lots of people, like servants throughout Asia (ex-Japan, AFAICT) and now increasingly the West, have no viable choice not to work for known psychopaths, or worse.

And I’m not talking about earning piles of money in return for one’s physical and/or psychological endangerment, although I accept as likely that Naomi Campbell pays above the going rate. Here, there appears to be a convenient collective social blindness – boomer-induced and maintained – to do with just how many income-desperate Xers (and-younger) there are in the West.

This was pointedly shown in a weirdly out-of-touch comment by Anne Alexander, a plaintiff lawyer involved in the recent British drug trial that went disastrously wrong – for which participants (all Xers or younger) were paid 2000 pounds (i.e. ~$A5,000):

“It’s commonplace for drug companies to pay people who are involved in clinical trials small amounts of money such as this”.

Five thousand dollars is a “small amount of money?”. For a boomer, maybe. While I don’t know the “work” hours that were required by the ill-fated UK trial (i.e. did it involve overnight stays, or just the more usual handful of hour-or-two visits for briefing/jabs/follow-up?), my direct experience from an Australian medical trial (being jabbed with an experimental vaccine, five non-telephone visits of 4.5 hours total) is that the going rate for being a medical guinea pig is $600 plus travel costs, with “no charge” (!!!) for the vaccine itself. And for $600, I should add, the “work” involved seems fine with me (I’m currently on their waiting list).

In other workplace news, the Cowra abattoir workers storm seems to have blown over, in a nick of time. The Right clearly has egg on its face right now, so it’s going to be interesting to see when they feel brave enough to publicly state that employers should have the legal right to do what the Cowra abattoir did sustantively; i.e. to fire (for "genuine operational reasons") and then re-hire (in whole or part) at a lower wage rate.

On freedom of contract grounds, I think that the Right has an excellent case to be shouting from the rooftops here – although it needs to be said that the Cowra employer didn’t follow quite the correct procedure. Here’s the Right’s proper How-to script.

Firstly, the Cowra employees were/are presumably covered by an award or collective agreement, which is to say a contract that sets out (inter alia) their wages. This contract will have an expiry date (that is probably well into the future), but at any time it can, of course, be varied by mutual agreement. That is, employees are free (or if they aren’t under the new law, they certainly should be) to vote themselves a pay cut. Such has been common for years in the US airline industry, for example, which has seen ageing (=mostly boomer) airline crews repeatedly volunteer their wages to go down to the point that they are almost working for free (if they were Xers, they might be styled “interns”), so as to (i) allow the otherwise-bankrupt airline employer to keep flying, and (ii) to preserve their (looming) retirement benefits.

What the Cowra employer should have done, then, is to (a) simply sack (for "genuine operational reasons") those it didn’t want to keep even at lower wages, and (b) not sack the rest, but offer them a “choice” – they volunteer for a lower wage, or the whole shebang gets shut down. A majority of employees, I suspect, would grudgingly so volunteer (meaning the abattoir stays open), while the recalcitrant minority can be otherwise dealt with (but legally probably still not sacked, since this would be “discrimination”, even under the new Act).

See, it’s not that hard, is it Freehills? So get to work – although I’m sure that you actually have, already, only that it’s apparently un-newsworthy white-collar workers who have quietly got the accept-lower-wages-or-else ultimatum.

Also interesting in the Cowra abattoir case was the statement of one worker that with his wage poised to go from $880 to $580 a week, he would be better off claiming the dole. At the purely fiscal level I take his word for this – it obviously would not be possible for a single person to be better-off here, but as fellow Xer single (I assume) Janet Albrechtsen reminds us today, voters with kids (the speaker has three) are the Howard government’s darlings. I do note, however, that despite “being better off on the dole”, it does not automatically follow that one is eligible for it. Indeed, to refuse or to resign from a job paying $580 a week definitely disqualifies one from the dole.

Which means that by staunching the smell from Cowra for the moment, the government has bought time on another grizzly policy killing-floor: reducing welfare payments (as in dollars going to existing recipients), “voluntarily” or otherwise.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Who will serve, and who will master?

For one of Australia’s brighter, and certainly most level-headed, Left commentators, John Quiggin has committed an astonishing gaffe (at minimum) with the title of a recent talk he gave (with Andrew Leigh): “Who will serve?”.

The verb “serve” has a wide range of meanings, especially when “in/on/as” is tacked on. US presidents (but less so Australian PMs) serve as leaders; soldiers from the most debt-addled countries of the West currently serve in Iraq; and many private-school educated, highly-paid buffoons serve on company boards. (In the last case, and perhaps also the first case (more certainly so under Dubya) the use of “serve” is actually quite perverse.)

In any event, in John Quiggin’s context, “serve” has only one, narrower meaning: to perform menial and/or poorly-paid work, aka to be a servant.

At uni in the mid-late 80s, I was confident of many, positive things-in-the-future – often unreasonably so, as it has turned out. One of them was that the “servant”, at least in the first world, had gone the way of TB, and this would remain so. Servants were a mere cultural memory, albeit from the relatively recent past, but progress had now made them obsolete, and permanently so.

Studying Labour Law at uni (which would now be called Workplace Relations Law, or some such), I would encounter old (19th and early 20th C) cases citing whatever Master and Servant Act was then in force. Just the title of the Act sounded so coldly Dickensian, and offensive to my Left/egalitarian instincts (then and now). In legal lexicon, “Master and Servant” had long since been replaced by “Employer and Employee”, and while I wasn’t under the delusion that a change of terminology alone amounted to progress, it was clear from both everyday life and popular culture of the time (e.g. the period English TV series “Upstairs, Downstairs”) that the word “servant” and the economic (at al) sphere which sustained it were musty relics. And good riddance, too.

The rebirth of the servant, and hence “servitude” as a matter-of-fact (non-pejorative) term, can be seen most clearly in the child-care industry in Australia (and elsewhere, I imagine). Childcare workers are mainly female, are universally poorly paid, and – here’s the kicker – are genteel, or at least somewhat so (“genteel”, of course, is another word I would have considered as obsolete, twenty years ago).

Gentility matters – greatly – to servitude because non-genteel servants, aka menials, are, especially when on their own, a rather unreliable and untrustworthy workforce. For this reason, it is not only inner-suburban real estate that has been “gentrified” in recent decades, there has also been a whole swag of what were once plainly-menial jobs which have turned towards the genteel.

Needless to say, such job gentrification runs exclusively in the employer’s/master’s favour. A childcare-worker/airline-steward who scrubs toilets as part of their job description would probably not even notice the creeping substantive menial-fication of their positions over the last two decades or so, and if they did, the cosmetic gentrification of their positions gives their employer/master a sound alibi. By “cosmetic gentrification” I mean things such as qualifications-inflation (for child-care workers) and female/young/pretty inflation (for Virgin Blue airline-stewards). Unlike real estate gentrification, which has boomer paws all over it, job gentrification is a strongly Xer phenomenon.

Cosmetic job gentrification/inflation doesn’t cost employer-masters a cent. Even better, a gentrified (but still poorly-paid) workforce will show higher retention rates and higher trustworthiness (an essential attribute for child-care workers, airline-stewards, and many other Xer workers) than their counterparts would have if they were non-gentrified menials doing the same job for the same pay.

What is an appropriate Left and/or feminist response to the New Servitude, then?

While feminism – and still less so, motherhood – is not really my bailiwick, for all sorts of reasons, I feel compelled to observe that, for a quite large grouping of women, Australia’s increasing return to a ruthless master/servant class system is just fine and dandy. As noted in a recent book review:

“Making clear how convenient feminism can be to capitalism, [Anne Manne’s] ‘Motherhood’ demonstrates that children are being sacrificed to the demands of contemporary capitalism which requires the lives, minds and full pockets of two breadwinners and a host of carers [/servants] – rather than parents – to raise them”.*

Yep, it’s all about capitalism. In case you don’t get it, the inescapable economics of child-care require a highly-paid Master (parent, customer) and a poorly-paid Servant. It simply cannot work any other way, massive taxpayer subsidies aside.

Of course, child-care does currently enjoy significant taxpayer subsidies. But to call for these subsidies to be increased – so as to ease the master/servant thingy by at least being able to pay child-care workers properly – is a fallacy.

The only way that child-care workers could be paid properly would be for their wages to equate to those of the parents who ultimately pay for the workers. That would be a zero sum game, at best (while commercial child-care has some economies of scale, these are more than chewed up by the managerial margins of Eddy Groves, et al). Therefore Rose Iser of Flemington is not really serious when she writes in this letter to the editor in today’s Age:

If Steve Biddulph is concerned about the quality of care some children receive in long day care, he should advocate better quality control and funding for centres and better pay for the wonderful people who provide parents with a break from the difficult and exhausting task of parenting.

His comments are terribly unhelpful to parents who don't have extended family living around the corner, who can't afford a nanny, who need to return to work for financial or emotional reasons and who are already anxious about their parenting.

Spot the oh-so-masterly patronizing? “Wonderful people” – as opposed to “exhaust[ed]” and “anxious” parents. Only well-paid Masters ever get exhausted and anxious, of course – servants apparently have different biology, which allows them to truck on regardless. And masterly ostentatious self-pity doesn’t just end there, as there is always the old Masterly grievance of being “terribly” one peg down from something better, aka Rose Iser “can't afford a nanny”. Translation: she makes do (I’m guessing) with a NESB part-time cleaner, but thinks that those who have got an all-in-one, full-time, uni graduate cleaner/housekeeper/child-carer (aka “nanny”) have it so much easier. After all, the far-from-“wonderful” Slavenka can barely be trusted with the house-keys, as it is.

In total contrast, also in a letter to the editor in today’s Age, is Kim Makin-Clark, of Yarraville:

The financial argument does not always cut it with me. We live on one wage (that is below the national average), so we rent, drive a second-hand station wagon and buy chain-store clothes.

Hopefully [Steve Biddulph’s] research will encourage the Howard Government to develop a more comprehensive policy to also support stay-at-home parents rather than just narrowly focusing on the nation's child-care needs.

Translation: if you’re actually on a servant’s wage yourself, commercial child-care, even with all its current subsidies, looks rather unappealing. Makin-Clark gives the (usually ultra-conservative) child’s-needs-first reason as part of her spiel, but I wonder if at least as important a reason is that she simply refuses to play the game of Master and Servant; a game which anyone who uses commercial child-care necessarily plays.

FWIW, plainly Kim Makin-Clark is an Xer (go renters-for-life!). I’m tempted to label Rose Iser a boomer (b. 1961 at the latest), but as this is a demographic improbability, I’ll guess instead that she’s a company director; i.e. a useless, private-school educated tool who has the gall to say that she “serves”.

Finally, back to John Quiggin. While he has repeatedly pshaw-ed the “generational game” as silly froth, both his choice of language – “Who will serve?” – and his talk’s promo para – “. . .[H]ow old will [the workers of the future] be?” – suggest a strong interest in generational groupings, as well the master-servant recrudescence. And in both these cases, the b. 1956 and very well-paid John Quiggin is plainly on the “master”, aka winning, side as he currently sees it.

The trouble with servants though, is that they can sometimes revolt – yes, even gentrified ones. And when the gentrified servant Xers of the world revolt, it ain’t gonna be pretty, I can tell you. Just take the words of this doctor as a gentle warning:

One of the things I'm worried about is spending the rest of my looking after baby boomers with not enough doctors to do it**.

* Ceridwen Spark, “Motherload” Overland # 182 (Autumn 2006) p 75

** Scroll to penultimate line ("MAN #3")

Monday, April 03, 2006

Pro Hart and the “elites”

NEWFSLASH: Australia’s “elites” do not, for whatever reason, include (i) journalists from the Australian, or (ii) the mincing millionaire (= Sydney eastern-suburbs home-owner) David Flint. Conversely, I most assuredly belong to the “elites”.

Hence, I hereby make an open offer to all Australian journalists, and David Flint: trade places with me. As it happens, I am qualified to do both types of job (journo and fruity lawyer-about-town), so what have you got to lose, people? In return for your trading *up* to my “elite” life (income of $10k/year, rent $110/week, no assets), I will happily handover all my current privileges to you, and then eke out an existence as a full-time employed person and/or Sydney home-owner.

David Flint’s definition of “elites” is at least partially transparent: if you’re a republican, then you’re definitely one of them, while if you’re a monarchist (like Pro Hart apparently was), then you’re one of the non-elites – just like Flint himself:

A strong supporter of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, [Pro Hart] distrusted all elites, including of course, republicans.

Wealth, class, sexual orientation etc, seem to count for nothing in this schema. However, I’d be fairly certain that a survey of GenX (but not boomer) republicans would see them as poorer than GenX monarchists. In any event, who in my generation actually cares about republic vs monarchy at the moment? Not me: I reckon that unemployment, and “pig-isotope” John selling uranium to a bellicose China, are rather more pressing concerns, for starters.

Meanwhile, Australian journalists seem to have divined – rather more sensibly, IMO – that being “elite”, or not, is largely to do with how one plays and/or is played by baroque games of inter-personal etiquette. Hence the Oz’s focus in recent days on who, if anyone, among Australia’s top public-gallery curators (i) was invited by Pro Hart to his exhibitions, and (ii) snubbed such an invitation.

The answer to the first appeared to be clear, at least on Wednesday: no one. If federal Community Services Minister John Cobb can be regarded as a proxy voice for Hart here, the reason for such non-invitations was an etiquette stand-off: Hart (or at least Cobb) believed that, as an Australian icon, Pro Hart’s work spoke for itself and it was therefore “an outrage that the [NGA would be] soliciting invites to art shows” (same URL). OTOH, the NGA’s implicit position – which seems reasonable enough to me, but then I’m just an “elite” – is that any artist wanting tens-of-thou-plus of taxpayer money spent on their work should expect to go through a few, smallish hoops first.

Until Saturday, this plausible-enough etiquette stand-off seemed to be the Oz’s definitive take on Pro vs the elites. In a stunning turnaround (although curiously unnoticed by anyone at the Oz), the story then became that, far from their being any etiquette stand-off, Hart had inundated Australia’s top public galleries with invitation to his shows, only to be “constant[ly] reject[ed]”:

“But 20 years of inviting the nation's art museums to Hart exhibitions failed to draw a single acceptance. In the art world, that is a serious snub, as a director or curator at an opening automatically imbues the artist with cachet”.

Diddums, Pro. If there’s a hell, I’m sure that its backdrop looks a lot like one of your lame Drysdale-copycat works. So I hope and trust you got the invitation thing right this time, for your afterlife. HINT: I’m pretty sure *they* invite you. It would sure be a bitch to get snubbed at the gates of your own eternal gallery, eh?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Has global warming disrupted the traditional news cycle?

Yes, it’s just a stupid headline: climate change obviously has had (and will continue to have) many micro-flow-ons, but I don’t think that changes in newsroom “weather” is one of them.

How to explain the commercial child-care news-story barometer (or story arc, if you prefer TV serial writers’ lingo) of the last few days remains a scientific unfathomable, then.

Talk about wild oscillations. On Wednesday, this headline certainly caught my eye: Scrap rebate, say child-care operators. Yep, that’s commercial child-care operators (inter alia) seemingly volunteering to have their generous taxpayer subsidies pared back. Or not – buried in the story is the difference (news to me, anyway) between child-care “benefits” – subsidies paid direct to centres – and child-care rebates – subsidies given to parents (retrospectively) via the tax system. What the commercial (*and* non-profit) child-care industry/“industry” is really calling for then, is for parental rebates to be redirected to become centre-recipient “benefits”.

Sounds/ed logical enough - four days ago, at least. Getting a rebate paid via the tax system takes about one year, on average, while centre subsidies/“benefits” get paid on a real time, rolling basis. And it’s the same taxpayer money that’s going out either way – it’s not as if the industry sneakily has its hand out for a *net* funding increase.

As I said, that was Wednesday. Yesterday brought the calm – or false mini-storm – before the (real) storm, in the guise of this story highlighting how a relatively high percentage of commercially-operated child-care centre workers would not send their children to such centres. The guts of the story came from a report from the Australia Institute, a tiresome, boomer-centric dumb-tank, headed by the cretinous Clive Hamilton. What the Australia Institute missed – and so what creepy, hyper-capitalist commercial operator ABC Learning was able to exploit in rebuttal – was that the same survey also showed (paradoxical, one might think) high staff retention rates (if not among commercial operators generally, then certainly within the biggest commercial player, ABC Learning). Oops! Although there may be a logical explanation here: hard-bitten, highly-casualised (same URL) ABC Learning employees (i) know that they’ve reached the end of the line, career-wise, and (ii) can’t afford to have children. In other words, they’re fairly typical GenX fuck-ups, in having more internalised rage than a Gaza teenager. But don’t worry parents, we GenX fuck-ups would never take our rage out on children directly: if our own heads and bodies are absolutely full, full full, then you can and must allow for the resultant spill-over to go onto the employer – aka low-level workplace sabotage.

Anyway, today ‘s commercial child-care news-story rendered yesterday’s Clive-said/Eddy-said face-off redundant. Yep, it turns out that child-care “benefits” – the subsidies paid direct to centres – are a fraudsters paradise, with implicated centres (no of which are named) taking taxpayers for a $100m+ annual ride.

Nice one. It will be interesting to see if this story generates much tabloid/shock-jock rage in coming days. I predict not; after all a lone “dole-bludger” on $10k a year is a much worse imposition on taxpayers than some coldly-fraudulent crims skimming off a lazy hundred-mill. The latter do look after our children, after all. *And* they generously went into bat on behalf of battler parents/taxpayers, re converting slow rebates to fast “benefits”, as recently as Wednesday. So what if they’re gilding the lily a little?

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